Tuesday, October 14, 2008

May the Farm be with you.

I spend a lot of time on the computer. L., our resident Keto Kid and picky 3 year old, hasn't been eating lately so I spend a lot of time sitting on the computer watching YouTube with him to get him to take little bites and squirts of liquid. (For those who don't know about the Ketogenic Diet you have to have a very specific ratio of fats to proteins/carbs and kids have a minimum drinking amount to keep from forming kidney stones. I only wish I could wait for him to be hungry, without a minimum food and liquid the diet won't hold off the seizures.)

The boys like Star Wars, like many boys their ages. They have the Lego Star Wars video games. They like to watch the Star Wars parodies and reenactments.

A friend sent me this. My favorite part is the Death Melon.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Making Sweetened Dried Cranberries

Another experiment in American cookery.

I don't know if many of you have cooked with cranberries or even tried a raw cranberry before (the boys had fun daring each other to eat these so I had lots of little spit-skins on the floor for a few days). We're surrounded by pines and cranberry bogs up here but somehow I've resisted the impulse to make paper or cook with cranberries all these years.

Several years ago when the oldest boys were babies and we'd just moved up here Dean's company gave us a huge bag of free cranberries. I didn't know what to do with it. I've never liked cranberry sauce and those sweetened dried cranberries weren't popular yet so I just strung them on a line and put them around the bird cage. They didn't want them either.

A few weeks ago I went to the Warrens Cranberry Festival with my mom and I brought home 10lb. of fresh cranberries because I thought it was time for me to learn something. Cranberries are not going away. Cranberries are vital to our local economy...just like potatoes and the paper mill.

I've read several versions of how to make sweetened dried cranberries (my favorite are the orange flavored ones). I decided to try 2 or 3 methods and see what turned out the best.

First I put them in a pot of boiling sugar water (1/2 sugar to 1 cup of water). The first method was a no-boil method (supposedly boiling makes them squishy). In the hot water they were supposed to burst. I think maybe 3 burst and the rest stayed hard little balls. After 45 minutes I just turned the heat back up. I boiled them until all had burst. Then I let them sit in the hot water a bit longer. They looked pretty mashed up by the time I put them on the first tray of the dryer.

The second group I put on a cookie sheet and turned the oven on low. I haven't read anything about doing that, but you can dry fruit on low in the oven so I thought maybe it would work better. I left it on 125 for 15 minutes then we were leaving so I shut the oven off. When I came back most of them had split so I took them back for a sugar water bath.

Now the sugar water was cranberry flavored from the last boiling. Dean had already stolen it (and watered it down slightly) for cranberry drink! I had to get it back and let the oven cranberries sit for at least 30 minutes in the solution. Then I put them on 2 more trays and started it up.

This is where things get sticky. The plug didn't work and somehow I forgot to get my handyman. They sat in there. Then they dried off and on over the next 2 days. They dried way too long actually because I read they needed a good 8 hours in the dryer.

So now we have some semi-sweet (but smashed) cranberries. I don't mind those. Slightly tart is good.

And then the really tart ones. Not quite sure what I'm going to do with those. I bagged them and I'll think about it later.

Now I have to think up a new way to do this. Maybe I'll try soaking them in orange juice this time.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Letting Go

Sunday was the day. We went on a drive. It was gray. It was cold. I realized it was time to let go of my tomatoes.

L. and I went outside with a basket and gathered all the green tomatoes. It started to rain. He was happy enough in a hood and I like the rain. We gathered more. It started to thunder...really thunder. It was a nice dramatic finish.

We still have some beans out that are flowering and a few broccoli (from the Spring, no less) which are making nice small heads. The tomatoes were the heart of the garden though and it was hard to let go. I kept thinking a few more would ripen.

We've had 2 frosts in the last week. The maple leaves are rioting and the staid oak are just as green as they ever were. I was cutting up a delicata squash from the farm last night and I saw the strings and knew I would be up to my elbows in pumpkin guts soon.

To each season it's joys.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Ham and Applesauce

We've been doing locally-raised beef for a few years now. Dean has a guy in his office who ran a few cattle before he sold his land. It helped with the taxes.

This year we had to go out and find someone to fill that need. The local Country Store had a few brochures and we read some and we decided to do a big trial order this year; a side of beef, a whole pig, a dozen chickens. We paid down half and waited.

The chickens and pig go first. We picked them up over the weekend. One of the hams was starting to thaw while we were cleaning out the freezer so Dean cut off a few slabs and fried it quick.

I can't tell you how good that was. I'm not a huge ham fan. Most of it is so thick and...moist...and gelatinous. This was crispy, with a salty, creamy inside. Oh, it was good. I'm looking forward to the rest tonight with my special mashed potatoes.

It's also a big apple week. Wonderful homemade applesauce. Or there was wonderful homemade applesauce on Monday. I have to admit that I'm struggling to get through those two boxes right now. I have a terrible cold and every meal preparation makes me feel Typhoid Mary. I'm just not up to canning.

So I'm going to sniffle tonight until Dean takes over, he fries it up better then I do anyway. I'll just wash my hands and pull out the applesauce. My contribution.